Patent Reveals New Siri Feature That Could Help It Rival Google Duplex

Could this be in Siri's future?

At least so far, Siri has been outgunned in the voice assistant arena. Google’s Duplex update autonomously books appointments for users, Amazon’s Alexa can also completely automate e-commerce orders. While Shortcuts is helping to close the gap, at the moment Siri is still best at just telling you the weather forecast.

The Shortcuts app introduced in iOS 12 enabled Siri’s to understand more complicated commands, but a patent filing published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office Thursday detailed a feature that could make Siri like no other voice assistant. Apple appears to be working on a way to give Siri an offline mode.

Currently, all voice assistants require internet connectivity to work. Apple’s filing would allow Siri to perform some actions even when it’s offline, instead of having it prompt you with an error message. This requires figuring out a way to get Siri to respond to queries without routing voice commands through Apple’s servers; it would have to be capable of processing them straight from an iPhone or iPad.

An update like this could make Siri respond faster than ever and let it respond no matter the state of users’ internet connection. This would bring Siri closer becoming an assistant that is actually always there for you as long as your device is charged.

apple patent siri
Apple's breakdown of how onboard voice command processing would look like.

While this feature hasn’t been confirmed, it’s very plausible. Apple’s A12 Bionic chip that powers the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR comes with an onboard Neural Engine that is built to handle real-time machine learning tasks. This component has enabled a handful of photography-centric features, like the adjustable Portrait Mode effect, and it could also presumably enable similar upgrades to Siri.

Apple voice assistant might have a bright future. Previous patent filings have revealed that Apple wants to give Siri the ability to tell users’ voices apart and better understand the names of small businesses.

The A.I. is getting smarter, which might make products like the HomePod, iPhone, and iPad a more tempting purchase for potential Apple converts. Hopefully, Siri won’t be known as the weatherman of voice assistants for much longer.